Tommy Tolles Ties for First in Champions Tour Qualifier
Recent UGA standout Lee McCoy earned medalist honors in the finals of Web.com Tour qualifying for 2018, with the 72-hole event concluding Sunday in Arizona.
McCoy shot 28-under par 260 to win the event by two strokes, with the third place finishers six shots behind him. He posted scores of 65-67-63-65 over two courses at Whirlwind GC in Chandler. McCoy was second after the first round, tied for third after 36 and tied for first going to the final day.
For the tournament, McCoy made 29 birdies and just one bogey, that coming on his sixth hole in the opening round.
This past season McCoy played primarily on the PGA Tour-sponsored Canadian Tour, finishing sixth on the money list with a victory in the season opener and a pair of top-5s in his final four starts.
McCoy qualified for the finals of Web.com qualifying last year, but was unable to play after breaking his wrist in a car accident.
The first Web.com event McCoy plays in 2018 will be his first one ever on the tour. He has made 10 PGA Tour starts, including four while he was still a member of the Georgia golf team. He qualified for the 2015 U.S. Open as an amateur, and made the cut later that summer in the John Deere Classic.
The highlight of McCoy’s four PGA Tour appearances as an amateur came in 2016 in Tampa at the Innisbrook Resort, the course he grew up playing on. He placed fourth in the tournament, one of the best finishes by an amateur in the modern history of the PGA Tour. He made six starts in PGA Tour events in 2016 after turning pro, but did not make a cut in any of them.
McCoy ‘s family moved to Clarkesville while he was in high school, and he went on to enjoy an outstanding college career in Athens, graduating in 2016 after twice earning All-American status.
Joey Garber, a teammate of McCoy’s on the UGA golf team, also qualified for the 2018 Web.com Tour, tying for 30th in the finals at 15-under 273. Garber tied for 10th in his first ever Web.com start in Boise in 2014 but has missed the cut in five events since. He has played in six PGA Tour tournaments, tying for 13th in Reno in 2016 as a Monday qualifier. Garber shot 72-65-67-69 in finals.
Also, qualifying was Atlanta resident Michael Hebert, who played his college golf at Auburn. Hebert tied for 16th at 271, closing with scores of 66-67-66 after an opening 72. Hebert has been a Web.com Tour member each of the last three years, placing 84th on the money list in 2015, 90th in 2016 and 100th this past season.
Eight other golfers from the state also competed in the Web.com qualifying finals and will have limited status next season. The top 45 and ties earned exempt status to start the 2018 season, with those outside the top 45 unlikely to get many starts next year other than through Monday qualifying.
Tying for 65th at 276 was Augusta’s Chase Parker and former Augusta State standout Henrik Norlander. Parker, who played his college golf at Kentucky, was 96th in 2017 in his rookie season on the Web.com Tour. He was 14th in finals after shooting 63 in the third round, but missed the top 45 by two shots after a final round 74.
Norlander, who led the Jaguars to back-to-back NCAA Championships along with Patrick Reed, also missed by two with scores of 73-69-68-66. He has split time between the PGA and Web.com Tours since 2013, with his best showing a tie for second in the 2016 RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club, where he lost in a playoff. He was 113th on the Web.com Tour this past season after placing among the top 50 in 2014 and ’15.
Former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin, who is living in Alpharetta, tied for 85th at 279. Fellow ex-Yellow Jacket James White of Acworth tied for 99th at 281 along with Woodstock’s Riley Davenport. A second round 78 knocked Davenport out of contention, but he moved up the final two days with scores of 68 and 63.
Dawsonville’s Blake Palmer finished with a 4-under 284 total, shooting an opening 79 and a third round 74 on one of the two courses used for the event while posting scores of 65 and 66 on the other course.
Atlanta resident Samuel Del Val, who played his college golf at Berry and won the 2010 Georgia Open, shot 76 and 78 on one course and 68-70 on the other. Del Val finished 76th on the 2017 Web.com money list, one spot away from earning exempt status, and should be able to get into some early season events.
Recent Kennesaw State golfer Jimmy Beck of Columbus withdrew after the third round. Beck played well on the LatinoAmerica Tour this past season, finishing 22nd in the money list.
The Champions Tour and LPGA also held their qualifying finals recently.
Champions Tour: Former UGA golfer Tommy Tolles earned exempt status for the 2018 Champions Tour, tying for first in the qualifying finals in Scottsdale, Az., before losing in a playoff to Tom Byrum.
Tolles was among the leaders for the entire tournament with scores of 65-65-69-66 for a 19-under 265 total. He birdied the 16th and 17th holes in the final round, but Byrum tied him with an eagle at the par-5 17th and won the playoff on the first hole with an eagle on the par-5 10th at TPC Scottsdale.
On the tournament, Tolles had 27 birdies and an eagle, shooting 6-under 65 in the opening round with a double bogey. He carded seven birdies in three of his four rounds, including the final day. It took a score of 17-under to finish in the top five, with only the top five earning spots on next year’s tour.
Tolles won twice on what is now the Web.com Tour in the early 1990s, and had a good run for several years on the PGA Tour in the late 1990s before dropping off the tour after the 2004 season. His best season came in 1996, when he placed sixth or better five times in a seven-start stretch, playing in the final group on Sunday on an almost weekly basis, including the final BellSouth Classic played at Atlanta CC.
But after finishing third in the 1997 Masters, Tolles was rarely heard from again, and left his career as a tour player in 2009 after several years on the Web.com Tour.
Tolles turned 50 in 2017 and played five events on the Champions Tour, earning a little over $50,000 to finish 96th on the money list. Augusta’s Scott Parel won the 2016 Champions Tour qualifying finals and went on to a strong showing in 2017, placing 20th in earnings.
Three other Georgians also competed in the qualifying finals. Vidalia’s Paul Claxton, a teammate of Tolles in Athens in the 1980s who turns 50 early next year, tied for 20th at 275 with scores of 70-69-65-71. Claxton won the 2017 Georgia Open and tied for third in the national club pro championship to earn a spot in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Claxton recently teamed with Forest Heights head pro Drew Pittman to win the Georgia PGA Pro-Pro Championship at Sea Island GC.
Georgia PGA member Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, who has made 30 Champions Tour starts since 2010, tied for 40th at 280 with scores of 73-71-69-67. Braselton’s Tim Conley, a former tour player like Tolles, Claxton, and Skinner, withdrew after shooting 79 in the third round.
LPGA Tour: Two Georgia natives and three current or former UGA golfers competed in the finals of LPGA Tour qualifying in Daytona Beach, with LPGA veteran Dori Carter of Valdosta regaining non-exempt status for the 2018 season.
Carter, who has been an LPGA Tour member since 2011, had her poorest season this year, finishing 133rd on the money list. Only the top 125 retain status for the following season and Carter needed a strong showing in the qualifying finals, with the top 20 exempt for 2018.
A score of 2-under 358 over 90 holes tied for 20th, with three players going to a playoff for the final spot. Carter shot 2-under 70 in each of the final two rounds but missed the playoff by one shot at 359 to tie for 23rd. She will have limited status for the 2018 season, but should be able to get into about half the events on the schedule.
Carter has played seven seasons on the LPGA Tour, with her best showing coming in 2014, when she finished 70th in earnings. She finished outside the top 100 each of the past three seasons but remained exempt in 2017 with a top-20 finish in the qualifying finals last year.
Recent UGA golfer Harang Lee tied for 45th to barely earn a non-exempt spot, but will be limited to a handful of LPGA starts in 2018. She will likely play most of her golf on the Symetra Tour, which will be returning to Atlanta National in the spring.
Current UGA golfer Jillian Hollis opened with back-to-back scores of 71, but shot 293 for 72 holes and missed by one shot of advancing to the final round. She competed as an amateur and is eligible to continue her career at Georgia.
Mariah Stackhouse of Riverdale missed the 72-hole cut by two at 294, but will have status for 2018 after placing 114th on the money list as a rookie in 2017. Stackhouse made 15 starts her rookie season, with her best finish a tie for eighth in Wisconsin, where she shot 16-under for the tournament. She should get more starts in 2018 off her top-125 status than she had this year.
Also missing the 72-hole cut was former UGA golfer Marta Sanz Barrio.